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Social Science Research Approaches: A toolbox for Empirical Designs - 5 ECTS

Date and time

Monday 29 April 2024 at 09:00 to Friday 3 May 2024 at 16:00

Registration Deadline

Monday 11 March 2024 at 23:55


Dalgas Have - room DHV 2.69, 2.70 & 2.71 (second floor), Dalgas Have 15, 2000 Frederiksberg Dalgas Have - room DHV 2.69, 2.70 & 2.71 (second floor)
Dalgas Have 15
2000 Frederiksberg

Social Science Research Approaches: A toolbox for Empirical Designs - 5 ECTS

Course coordinators: Manuele Citi & Janine Leschke, Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)



Associate Professor Manuele Citi
Department of Management, Society and Communication, CBS

Professor with special responsibilities Janine Leschke
Department of Management, Society and Communication, CBS

Associate Professor Jasper Hotho
Department of Management, Society and Communication, CBS

Postdoc Carolin Schütze
Department of International Economics, Government and Business, CBS

Associate Professor Rasmus Brun Pedersen
Department of Political Science, Aarhus University

Senior Researcher Rasmus Tue Pedersen
VIVE – The Danish Center for Social Science Research
Postdoc Anne-Karen Hüske
Department of Management, Society and Communication, CBS


This course is for PhD students only. It is most suitable for PhD students in the first half of their PhD studies. The PhD students must hand in a five pages (maximum) written presentation on the research question, theories and method(s) of their project, in which they select one or two topics of the curriculum and explain how they can be applied to their project. The short paper should include specific references to the literature of the course and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their chosen approach in comparison to other relevant approaches. 

Students will have the opportunity to revise this based on the lectures and group discussions during the course and to present their ideas for additional feedback at the end of the course.

Deadline for submission of short papers (max 5 pages) is 10 days before the beginning of the course.

The short papers provide material for discussion during the course, and the students must be willing to participate in discussions of other papers and presentations.

It is a precondition for receiving the course diploma that the student attends the whole course.


The interlinkage between theory and research design is in focus when this course introduces PhD students to the core approaches constituting social science research approaches. We will focus in particular on conceptual analysis and case-selection,  systematic literature reviewing, process tracing and comparative qualitative studies, survey, experimental and mixed methods approaches, network analysis and elite interviews. 

The aim of the course is to develop the awareness of different designs applied in social science research. This will allow the course participant to reflect critically upon their own projects and to discuss the strengths and weaknesses in comparison to other relevant approaches.

Learning objectives

Describe and justify the research design of the PhD project

  • Compare and contrast how methodological approaches interlink in different research designs
  • Discuss strengths and weaknesses of the theoretical and methodological choices made in the PhD project
  • Apply the knowledge and insights from the course in a critical reflection on their own project

Teaching style

Dialogue lectures, group discussions, feedback on student presentations.

Lecture plan 


Date & time



Day 1


Conceptual analysis and the logic of case studies 


Welcome and students’ introduction

Manuele Citi and Janine Leschke


Conceptual analysis

Manuele Citi


Lunch break


Comparative qualitative research

Jasper Hotho


Prepare a short power point/white board drawing based on your course paper


Day 2


Small-N designs 


Systematic literature review

Anne-Karen Hüske


Feed-back on student projects (part I)


Lunch break


Process tracing

Rasmus Brun Pedersen, Aarhus University

Day 3



Feed-back on student projects (part II) based on short student presentations with reflections on the course material and focus on methods

Janine Leschke & Manuele Citi

Large-N designs (Surveys, experiments and and survey experiments)


The logic and design of surveys

Rasmus Tue Pedersen


Lunch break


Experiments and survey experiments

Rasmus Tue Pedersen

Dinner 18.00 (PLACE TBC)

Day 4


Hybrid quant-qual methods (I)


Mixed methods approaches

Janine Leschke


Feed-back on student project (part III)






Social network analysis

Christoph Houman Ellersgaard

Day 5


Feeback on and elite interviews


Feed-back on student projects (part IV) based on short student presentations with reflections on the course material and focus on methods

Janine Leschke & Manuele Citi


Elite interviews

Carolin Schütze





Feed-back on student projects (part V) based on short student presentations with reflections on the course material and focus on methods

Janine Leschke & Manuele Citi


Content and course literature

You find the content and required readings for each session below. Book chapters of the core readings will be provided by the course faculty on CANVAS; it will be the students' responsibility to obtain the journal articles if these are not uploaded on CANVAS. All core texts should be read prior to the start of the course. For most sessions you have at least one text which is a more general description of the theory or method and at least one text which is an application.

Day 1 - Conceptual analysis and case studies 

Conceptual analysis (Manuele Citi)

In this session we will introduce concepts as essential tools for theoretical and empirical analysis. We will focus on issues of conceptualization, such as conceptual stretching, the link between conceptual intension and extension, the relationship between conceptual definition and empirical measurement, and the levels and rules of aggregation for multi-dimensional concepts.


Goertz, G. (2006) Concept Intension and Extension, in Goertz, G., Social Science Concepts: A User’s Guide, Princeton: Princeton University Press, Ch.2 (pp. 69-94).

Munck, G. L. and Verkuilen, J. (2002) Conceptualizing and measuring democracy: Evaluating alternative indices, Comparative Political Studies 35(1): 5-34.

Supplementary Readings

Adcock, Robert, and David Collier. 2001. “Measurement Validity: A Shared Standard for Qualitative and Quantitative Research.” American Political Sciences Review 95(3): 529–546.

Coppedge, Michael et al. 2011. “Conceptualizing and Measuring Democracy: A New Approach.” Perspectives on Politics 9(02): 247–67.

Comparative qualitative analysis  (Jasper Hotho, Copenhagen Business School)

This session provides an introduction to the value and logic of comparative research designs in the social sciences. Key issues that will be discussed are the different rationales for adopting comparative research designs, the design choices this involves, and the challenges and pitfalls involved in doing comparative research and getting it published. With the help of two exercises, this session aims to equip PhD students with the ability to evaluate the quality and appropriateness of comparative research designs, the ability to articulate both the merits and limitations of such research designs, and the ability to offer constructive suggestions for improvement.


Ragin, C.C. (1987) Case-oriented comparative methods. In: C.C. Ragin, The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA (pp. 34-52).

Locke, R. M., & Thelen, K. (1995). Apples and oranges revisited: Contextualized comparisons and the study of comparative labor politics. Politics & Society, 23(3), 337-367. [Please read pp. 337-344; rest optional]

Battilana, J., & Dorado, S. (2010). Building sustainable hybrid organizations: The case of commercial microfinance organizations. Academy of Management Journal, 53(6), 1419-1440.

Day 2 - Small-N designs (I)

Systematic literature review (Anne-Karen Hüske)

Systematic Literature Review is a methodology to systematically identify, critically appraise and synthesize relevant past and recent research in order to respond to a clearly formulated topic and identify avenues for future research. This session will introduce different types of literature reviews, different approaches to systematic literature reviews, and how to do a systematic review and present the results of the research synthesis.


Bacq, S., Drover, W., Kim, P.H. 2021 Writing bold, broad, and rigorous review articles in entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing, 36 (6).

Fan, D., Breslin, D., Callahan, J.L., Iszatt-White, M. (2022) Advancing literature review methodology through rigour, generativity, scope and transparency. International Journal of Management Reviews, 24:171–180.

Process tracing (Rasmus Brun Pedersen)

Process-tracing in social science is a method for studying causal mechanisms linking causes with outcomes. This enables the researcher to make strong inferences about how a cause (or set of causes) contributes to producing an outcome. Derek Beach introduces a refined definition of process-tracing, differentiating it into three distinct variants and explaining the applications and limitations of each. 


Beach (2017) ‘Process-tracing methods.’ Oxford Research Encyclopedia.

O'Mahoney, J. (2017). Making the Real: Rhetorical Adduction and the Bangladesh Liberation War. International Organization, 71(2), 317-348. doi:10.1017/S0020818317000054

Supplementary Readings

Beach and Pedersen (2016) Causal Case Study Methods. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. (Especially chapters 2 – 5, 9)

Day 3 Large-N designs (Surveys, experiments and and survey experiments)

The logic and design of surveys (Rasmus Tue Pedersen)

In this session, we will briefly discuss the use of surveys in social science research, and the remainder of the section will primarily focus on possible ways of handling potential challenges when doing survey research. We will discuss challenges related to, e.g., low response rates, respondent satisficing and social desirability, question wording effects, context effects and non-attitudes. We will also address some of the practicalities of survey research.


Krosnick, Jon A. (1999). Survey Research, Annual Review of Psychology. 50: 537-67 (31 pages).

Kennedy, C. et al. (2018). An Evaluation of the 2016 Election Polls in the United States. Public Opinion Quarterly. 82(1): 1-33 (33 pages) 

Supplementary readings

Tourangeau, R., Rips, L. J., & Rasinski, K. (2000). The psychology of survey response. Cambridge University Press.

Groves, R. M., Fowler Jr, F. J., Couper, M. P., Lepkowski, J. M., Singer, E., & Tourangeau, R. (2011). Survey methodology (Vol. 561). John Wiley & Sons.

Dillman, D. A. (2011). Mail and Internet surveys: The tailored design method. John Wiley & Sons.

Stern, M. J., Bilgen, I., & Dillman, D. A. (2014). The state of survey methodology: Challenges, dilemmas, and new frontiers in the era of the tailored design. Field Methods, 26(3), 284-301.

Experiments and survey experiments (Rasmus Tue Pedersen)

Experiments are key tools in the methodological toolbox for anyone interested in causal inference, and the use of experiments in social science has increased dramatically. This session cover the logic of randomized experiments, different types of experiments (lab, field, and survey) and the key considerations when designing, analyzing and interpreting experiments. As a part of this, we will also discuss ethical considerations for researchers using experimental methods.


Druckman, J. et al. (2011). Cambridge handbook of experimental political science. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press. Chapters 2 and 3 (26 pages)

Mutz, Diana C. (2011). Population-Based Survey Experiments. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Chapter 1 (23 pages)

Bertrand, M., & Mullainathan, S. (2004). Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A field experiment on labor market discrimination. American economic review, 94(4), 991-1013. (23 pages)

Pedersen, RT, JO Dahlgaard & M Citi (2019). Voter Reactions to Candidate Background Characteristics Depend on Candidate Policy Positions. Electoral Studies, 61. (10 pages)

Supplementary readings 

Druckman, J. et al. (2011). Cambridge handbook of experimental political science. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press. (Remaining chapters)

Mutz, Diana C. (2011). Population-Based Survey Experiments. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. (Remaining chapters)

McDermott, R. (2002). Experimental methods in political science. Annual Review of Political Science, 5(1): 31-61.

Day 4 – Hybrid quant-qual methods (I)

Mixed-method approaches (Janine Leschke)

Mixed or multi-methods approaches combining and integrating qualitative and quantitative social sciences tools have become popular in recent years. Rather than seeing methods as mutually exclusive alternatives, such approaches exploit the fact that multiple measurement offers the chance to assess each method’s validity in the light of other methods and thereby come to more sound conclusions. This session will discuss the advantages and drawbacks of mixed-methods approaches in PhD projects. We will in particular consider the combination of indepths case-study analysis with statistical analysis.


Creswell, J. and Plano Clark, V. (2018) Designing and Conducting Mixed Methods Research, Third Edition, London: Sage, ch. 3 (Core mixed methods designs)

Lieberman, E. (2005) Nested Analysis as a Mixed-Method Strategy for Comparative Research, The American Political Science Review 99(3), 435-452.

Supplementary Readings

Casal Bértoa, F. (2017) It’s been mostly about money! A Multi-method research approach to the sources of institutionalization, Sociological Methods & Research 46(4): 683-714.

Fearon, J. and Laitin, D. (2008) Integrating Qualitative and Quantitative Methods, in: Box-Steffensmeier, J., Brady, H. and Collier D. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology, Oxford: Oxford University Press: 756-776.

Becker, R. and Teney, C. (2020) Understanding high-skilled intra-European migration patterns: the case of European physicians in Germany, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 46:9, 1737-1755.


Applied Network Analysis (Christoph Houman Ellersgaard)

Empirically and theoretically, the session will focus on elites and decision-makers in a policy-making setting and provide examples that cut across the national, European and global levels. In a first part we cover how to identify the most powerful individuals in different societies, the elites, using social network analysis. 


Larsen, Anton Grau, and Christoph Houman Ellersgaard. “A Scandinavian Variety of Power Elites? – Key Institutional Orders in the Danish Elite Networks.” In New Directions in Elite Research, edited by Olav Korsnes, Johan Heilbron, Johannes Hjellbrekke, Felix Bühlmann, and Mike Savage. Routledge, forthcoming.

Larsen, Anton Grau, and Christoph Houman Ellersgaard. “Identifying Power Elites—k-Cores in Heterogeneous Affiliation Networks.” Social Networks 50 (July 2017): 55–69.

Ellersgaard, Christoph Houmann, Lasse Folke Henriksen, Peter Marcus Kristensen, and Anton Grau Larsen. 2016. “Social Spaces.” In Routledge Handbook of International Political Sociology. Routledge.

Supplementary Readings

Khan, Shamus Rahman (2012) The Sociology of Elites. Annual Review of Sociology 38(1): 361–77. doi:10.1146/annurev-soc-071811-145542.

Bühlmann, Felix, Thomas David, and André Mach (2012) The Swiss Business Elite (1980–2000): How the Changing Composition of the Elite Explains the Decline of the Swiss Company Network. Economy and Society 41(2), pp 199–226. doi:10.1080/03085147.2011.602542.

Afternoon Session - Feedback to students (I) (Janine Leschke & Manuele Citi)

In this session we will draw on the various elements of the course providing indepths feedback to the student’s projects.

Day 5 – Feeback to students and elite interviews

Morning Session - Feedback to students (II) (Janine Leschke & Manuele Citi)

In this session we will draw on the various elements of the course providing indepths feedback to the student’s projects.

Elite interviews (Carolin Schütze)

Elite interviews are often central sources of data for small-n analyses (case studies and comparative analyses). This session addresses various issues with elite interviews, from practical tricks of interviewing, to ethical dilemmas, as well as how to use elite interviews in your research and how to code them. 


Symposium consisting of seven short articles in Political Science and Politics on Interview techniques in social sciences, 35(4): 2002. Access the articles here:

Afternoon Session - Feedback to students (III) (Janine Leschke & Manuele Citi)

In this session we will draw on the various elements of the course providing indepths feedback to the student’s projects.

Registration deadline and conditions

The registration deadline is 11 March 2024. If you want to cancel your registration on the course it should be done prior to this mentioned date. By this date we determine whether we have enough registrations to run the course, or who should be offered a seat if we have received too many registrations.

If there are more seats available on the course we leave the registration open by setting a new regsitration deadline in order to fill remaining seats. Once you have received our acceptance/welcome letter to join the course, your registration is binding and we do not refund your course fee. The binding registration date will be the registration deadline mentioned above.

Payment methods

Make sure you choose the correct method of payment upon finalizing your registration:
CBS students:
Choose payment method CBS PhD students and the course fee will be deducted from your PhD course budget.
Students from other Danish universities: 
Choose payment method Danish Electronic Invoice (EAN). Fill in your EAN number, attention and possible purchase (project) order number.
Do you not pay by EAN number please choose Invoice to pay via electronic bank payment (+71). 
Students from foreign universities:
Choose payment method Payment Card. Are you not able to pay by credit card please choose Invoice International to pay via bank transfer. 

Event Location

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Organizer Contact Information

CBS PhD School
Nina Iversen

Phone: +45 3815 2475

Organizer Contact Information

CBS PhD School
Nina Iversen

Phone: +45 3815 2475